Local elections in highland regencies Puncak Jaya and Nduga accompanied by violent clashes leaving 6 people dead

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The General Election Commission (KPU) has begun to organise the local elections (PILKADA or PEMILUKADA) for the positions of governors, regents and mayors in Indonesia. The elections are planned to take place before December 2018. The electoral preparations in the highland regencies Nduga and Puncak Jaya were accompanied by violent clashes between armed groups and security forces who had been deployed to the regencies to secure the election process. In the regency of Nduga, an unknown armed group opened fire at an airplane injuring the pilot and later armed clashes between security forces and the perpetrators resulted in the death of three people. Moreover, the head of Torere district and two police officers were killed in the Puncak Jaya regency where they had to supervise local elections for the Hulu district.

Attack on airplane in Nduga Regency

Airplane TwinOtter Trigana NdugaOn 25 June 2018 at 09.45 am, an unknown armed group opened fire at a civil plane of the aviation company Trigana, as the airplane was landing at the Kenyam Airport in Nduga regency. According to information of the Human Rights Advocacy Network on Law Enforcement and Human Rights of the Papuan Central Highlands (JAPH-HAM), the Twin Otter (see image on the left) was bringing security force personnel to Nduga, where they were deployed to secure the upcoming local elections. The pilot, Ahmad Khamil (27 years), sustained a bullet injury on the left shoulder (shoulder blade) and was brought to the local health center (PUSKESMAS) for medical treatment (see image on the right).

Between 10.00 and 11.30 am, approximately 70 joint security force members engaged in a fireInjuredPilot Nduga 2 fight with the perpetrators at the so-called Koteka complex near the airport. The armed clash lead to the death of Henrik Sattu Kola (35 years), his wife Margaretha Pali (20 years) and Zaenal Abidin (28 years) (see top image). Henrik Sattu sustained a bullet wound to the stomach, while Zaenal Abidin was hit in the left side of the rib cage. Margaretha Pali died due to a lethal wound to the head, which was presumably caused by a machete. The son of Henrik Sattu and Margarteha Pali named Arjuna Kola (6 years) sustained a bleeding injury to the right cheek and had to be hospitalized. All victims come originally from the Indonesian island Sulawesi and had launched small businesses in Nduga.  

Despite the high number of security personnel and military equipment, the security forces did not succeed in arresting the perpetrators. Human rights defenders assume that the police and military will conduct more security operations in Nduga Regency to track down the perpetrators. In the past, such operations affected civilians and lead to numerous human rights violations. Security forces and residents in Nduga remain highly alert, leaving it unclear when the local elections in Nduga Regency are going to take place.

According to Radio New Zealand International, a faction of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN) has claimed responsibility for the shooting. A TPN spokesman stated, that one of the male victims had pulled out a gun and tried to shoot the TPN fighter while two others had tried to hold him. He claimed that the killing happened in an act of self-defense and explained that six-year-old Arjuna Kola was accidentally injured during the fight.

Armed group opens fire at police officers

A second attack on a group of police officers occurred in the Torere district of Puncak Jaya Regency on the 26 June 2018. Around 11.30 am a group of villagers of Torere went with two speed boats to a polling station near the border to Mamberamo Raya Regency, where they wanted to participate in the local elections. Around 04.00 pm, one of the speed boats was attacked as the group was on the way back to Torere District. The perpetrators released multiple shots from a hideout near the river bank and targeted the boat with the head of Torere District, Obaja Froaro, and nine police officers.

Obaja Froaro and two police officers from the Puncak Jaya District police, named Jesayas H Nusi and Sinton Kabarek, died during the attack. The head of the public relations department of the Papuan regional police, Ahmad Mustofa Kamal stated that police officers lost two fire arms (type SSI and AK 101) which might be in the hands of the perpetrators.